Developing the Inner Moral Compass

Children have sharp inner moral compasses. When we ask them to overlook experiences of injustice–large or small–by “being nice,” remaining silent, or making things more convenient, we are scrambling this critical ability to detect and respond powerfully when things aren’t right.

In Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America, Unitarian Universalist minister and author, Thandeka, describes the early experiences of shame, self-betrayal, and fear that are at the root of people’s eventual agreement to participate in systems of oppression–even for those who are privileged by those systems.

When children tell us, “It’s not fair!” we need to lean in close, make eye contact and listen. Even if we don’t agree with the specific example they are upset about, don’t worry, this one is probably just a pretext for expressing the deeper feelings associated with witnessing injustice.

We when listen carefully and respectfully to children, even if we can’t grant them what they are wanting, we are keeping intact and even sharpening their ability to discern and respond powerfully to injustice.

Let’s keep our kids as radical as they were at birth. We need their moral compasses intact if they are to effectively shape this world they are inheriting.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

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